Jaffrey man retires after 50 years at full-service gas station

  • Steve Christian announces his retirement after 50 years of working at Red's Auto Shop. (Abby Kessler / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Steve Christian announces his retirement after 50 years of working at Red's Auto Shop. Staff photo by Abby Kessler

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, June 26, 2017

It was the summer of 1964 or 1965 when Steve Christian landed a job at Red’s of Jaffrey LLC.

That day was so long ago Steve said he doesn’t remember if he was 14 or 15 years old at the time, but he does remember that he wasn’t old enough to drive yet.

“I was just hanging out in front of here one day and Red Peard he said, ‘Hey want to pump some gas little boy?’” Steve said recalling that moment during a recent interview.

He said sure, and that’s where he spent the next five decades of his life. He plans on retiring by the beginning of July.

Red’s – which was started by Norman “Red” Peard – had only been open for a few years before Steve started working there, and it was a fairly small operation at the time.

The Peard family has since grown the business to include oil delivery, heavy truck repair, and snow removal, to name a few. The also own Peard Properties LLC, and Monadnock Disposal Services.

“It’s grown enormously,” Christian said of his time at Red’s.

But as much as the family business footprint has changed and expanded over the years, its full-service gas station has largely remained the same. It’s still a 1950s station, where employees pump gas, squeegee windshields, and refill deflated tires by bumping up the price per gallon by a few cents compared to self-service stations.

In his 50 years, Steve spent the majority of his time in the mechanical shop repairing vehicles and servicing cars that stopped for gas.

In the early days, Steve and Red’s son John Sr. worked alongside each other. Steve said they became good friends over the years. He said he remembers tarring the roof with John early on, the two working high up until they heard a customer pull in to fuel up, and then they would have to quickly run down the ladder to serve the person.

He also helped the family build Forest Park too in the late 1960s. He said he was the smallest guy on the crew and they would send him under to spread concrete under the mobile homes.

Steve said he remembers Red’s wife, Edith, opened up a food stand on the side of the store back in the day, and he used to eat lunch right there near the shop.

The place has become like a home to him over the years, and the people who work there like family. When John Sr. passed away around Christmas last year, Christian was torn up. He still chokes back tears thinking of it.

Everything in the shop is familiar, too.

“I’ve been here so long, I’m always picking up a broom or doing even the littlest things that need to be done because it feels like mine,” he said. “I treat this place like my own.”

That doesn’t mean that when Monday rolls around, he doesn’t groan a little bit like everyone else, but after so many years the place feels a little bit like it’s his.

His son Eric Christian works on heavy equipment at Red’s and his daughter Stephanie Dionne works in the office. His grandson, Keith Christian does small work like cleaning around the shop, and his granddaughter Briana Dionne also does odd jobs around Red’s.

Eric said he started working beside his father in 1987 when he was in high school. He began pumping gas. He said it was hard working alongside a parent because he felt like his dad was harder on him than he otherwise would have been. In 1991, Eric started working on heavier machinery at the shop where he has been ever since.

Stephanie said she has been working in the office for about three years. She said their family and the Peard’s have become close over the years. That tight-knit relationship between the two families is the reason she said her dad stuck around for so long and why multiple generations are now working there.

“I know that he (Steve) always worked hard, he put 100 percent into this place as if it was his own,” Stephanie said, adding that was in large part because of his relationship with the Peard’s, and especially John Sr.

Steve said he’s not quite sure what he’ll do with his time once he phases out of working. He’ll mow the lawn in the middle of the day instead of at night and he may start dedicating a little more time toward collecting old milk bottles that have ties to Jaffrey.

He’ll come back and visit Red’s frequently too.

“I’m going to be around if people think they’re going to get rid of me they are mistaken,” Christian said.

Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledgertranscript.com. Follow her on Twitter @akesslerMLT.